Today (Monday 24 January 2022) marks International Day of Education. Formal education is something many of us take for granted: we wake up, go to school, learn – rinse and repeat for 13 years at a minimum. It is only when you reach the end of this cycle that you realise just how valuable education is, and when you have the choice to continue it for your own personal growth many Farnborough Hill pupils will take that option. They will go on to university or to an apprenticeship, and then out into the wider world, where they will realise education never stops. They will also realise just how fortunate they were, especially as young women, to have had the opportunity for such a brilliant education.
Over the next few days, we will explore the theme of the importance of education with our current pupils on our Social Media pages. We also wanted to hear from our Old Girls who became educators themselves. Both Claudia and Isabella got in touch to share their experiences, and we feel they highlight the importance of education perfectly.
Isabella Embleton, left Farnborough Hill in 2017
“‘Teacher’ is defined as ‘a person who educates.’ It seems, at face value, a perfectly sufficient definition. It is, however, for any person who has been blessed with a talented teacher, a perfectly inadequate definition. Its inadequacy is due to its attempt to reduce ‘teacher’ to mean only one role.
It would not be a stretch to say that my time at Farnborough Hill was what provided me with the foundations that motivated my becoming a teacher. It was, other than my home, the place where I spent most of my time; especially staying to complete my A levels which meant I interacted in small groups with the same teachers every day. They were, second to my parents, the most influential adult role models I was exposed to.
Since leaving Farnborough Hill, I have completed a degree and am now a teacher on the Teach First Programme. Teachers on this programme support pupils who are in the poorest areas in England and work exclusively with children from low socio-economic backgrounds. Literacy levels are low and the interest in my chosen subject, English, is minimal. It must be said, my working environment is far from the experience of my own schooling. Often, I am proud of students for turning up at school in the morning. Despite the difficulties, I am always honoured to be part of the effort to educate the next generation of children.
There is a lot to be said for environments that nurture the voices of young women. It is not to be said of everywhere. My own schooling moulded me into someone who is confident enough to stand in front of a class of 30 as their role model. I have always been prepared to speak up. Sometimes, this was appreciated. Sometimes, it landed me in trouble. Regardless, it is this attribute that has driven me to take the road into teaching that I have.
Since becoming a teacher myself, I often feel the weight of such an important role. Teachers have the power to define not only a subject but an entire perspective towards education.
I chose this path as I had, and still have, an outrage that there are so many who do not have a positive experience during the “13 years” they attend school. It is certainly true, if I did not look upon my own time at school with such fondness, then I would not have nearly as much motivation for my role now. My passion for supporting the next generation to value the opportunity of education and make a difference is deep rooted. The safe, inspiring environment that was my time at school is the foundation of my desire to provide that same feeling to the most impoverished communities in England.”
Claudia Turgut (Elgar), left Farnborough Hill in 1966
“I cannot say that I always wanted to be a teacher but then I didn’t know what I wanted to do. In my time, there was no such thing as careers support and options for girls were limited. However, I found myself in Turkey visiting my parents one Christmas (my father was posted to Ankara) where I met and subsequently married my Turkish husband in 1973.
It quickly became apparent that as a qualified native speaker, I was certainly going to be able to find an English teaching job here which is why I returned to the UK in order to do a PGCE. I have always loved both English literature and language so it seemed the obvious choice of career for me to pursue.
In a developing country such as Turkey, education is seen as the key to success, as indeed it is. I have seen with my own eyes how the children of villagers with barely literate parents go on to become doctors and lawyers in the cities by dint of hard study and, very often, financial sacrifice. In some more conservative parts of the country, girls are not taken as seriously as boys and are sometimes prevented by their families, especially their fathers or older brothers, from continuing their education in order to be married off. There are many charities here which encourage girls’ education and my husband and I have been paying for the education of two girls for the last 20+ years. I am passionate about this as, without an education, these girls’ futures would be incredibly limited. The girls very often have more drive and ambition than the boys as they know that they have to fight to succeed in a male-oriented society.
After teaching in a variety of educational establishments, I decided that I would take my passion for education to a different level. I was aware that Turkish students (with financial means) were very keen on studying abroad but very often didn’t know how to go about it and the advice available was patchy at best. So, with the encouragement of the British Council, I set myself up as a University Adviser here in Istanbul. Soon I became a representative of the International Office of the University of Warwick. This was a great job as it entailed visiting schools and universities here and all around Turkey making presentations about studying in the UK and, of course, at Warwick. I also became an IELTS teacher as an extension of this and an examination centre for WELT (Warwick English Language Test).
Living in a country like Turkey really opened my eyes to the importance of education and the role a good, caring teacher can play. A good education is the ticket to opening the doors of life.”